Pretty Packages: ideas for eco-friendly gift wrapping

Gift tags made from paint colour chips!
Gift tags made from paint colour chips

Images of the holidays often include a bounty of presents under a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. The gifts are tastefully wrapped, with colour-coordinated festive paper and impeccably-tied ribbons and bows. What the images never show, however, is the gift-opening aftermath: piles of ripped paper, discarded bows, and torn packaging, all used once and then sent to the landfill. Not so ho ho ho. For many years, I’ve encouraged my family to wrap my gifts in newspaper, and I’ll be honest – the pleasure of opening a gift that someone has carefully selected for me has not been dimished by the fact that there aren’t dancing santas on the gift wrap. In fact, if anything, I feel even better about the gift, knowing that it hasn’t brought me joy at the expense of the environment.

That said, most of us don’t want to just throw our gifts in burlap bags and call it a day (though if that works for you, go for it!). Plus, wrapping a gift is its own special activity and is about taking time to prepare something special for someone you love. But if you get creative, I think you’ll be surprised at how you can make your gifts fun, festive, AND eco-friendly. A few tips to get you started on your journey:

  1. First of all, reusable generally trumps recyclable. My mom owns a series of lovely holiday boxes that she uses each year for gifts. The boxes come with a fitted lid, so once you pop the gift in, you really don’t even have to do anything else, unless you want to add a bow. Resusable gift bags are great too.
  2. Try wrapping with newspaper. A neatly wrapped gift is a neatly wrapped gift, and newspaper is nice because you can still do your patented folded edges or twisted bonbon shapes. At the end, the parts not covered with tape can be easily tossed into the recycling bin.
  3. After the gift opening ceremony, collect the bows and ribbons and pop them into a bag for next year. With ribbon, so long as you don’t tie too tightly, the ribbon can be undone and rolled up and saved again for next year.
  4. If you are a crafty sort, sew up some fabric bags from leftover fabric you might have. A quick drawstring bag could hold many a gift for many a holiday season and is easily folded and stored.
  5. This is a very neat idea: make gift labels out of paint chip cards you might have. I went through a phase where I was very into collecting paint chips in beautiful colours, for future home decorating plans. A quick trim and I now have beautiful gift tags.
  6. And also for gift tags: save them! If you usually give to the same people each year, why not just collect the tags and use them again?
  7. Other ideas to help you gift wrap:
  • empty toilet paper rolls
  • terracotta plant pots
  • empty boxes (I keep my boxes from and use those again)
  • paper and tissue from things you might have ordered online
  • blankets
  • tea towels
  • yarn or string
  • clean glass or plastic jars

Happy Wrapping!

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